The mobile sandbox

Take a look at these statistics, as reported in Information Age: Within four years, mobile search ads will grow 130% and mobile search advertising will reach $1.3B, up from $20M today.

So, where are we? What are doing to aggressively get in the mobile game?

There’s very little advertising money in mobile for newspapers right now. No one knows how to sell it, and advertisers have little experience at formulating messaging for these devices. And, with all of the problems facing us, there’s little appetite, in some corners, for eschewing the chase for current dollars in exchange for future revenue.

We have to do both. We have to go after every dollar we can to pull our business through historically tough times. At the same time, we have to protect our future.Because a lot of people are after that future.

Apps for PDAs are being developed at breakneck speed — about 15,000 for IPhones alone, Information Age reported. As cell networks become faster and data plans get cheaper, more users will want these higher end phones — and more people will develop apps.

So, where’s the newspaper industry in this? How many apps have we developed? How many of us are even playing in the mobile world?

The answers are: not many and not nearly enough. We tend to be too worried about now and not worried enough about what’s coming.

We need to experiment with mobile now. There are a number of free or low cost vendors that won’t break the bank, and will help us learn what users and advertisers expect. We can learn how to develop PDA applications, experiment with SMS advertising messages, explore community partnerships that we’re uniquely positioned to cultivate. Done properly, many of us can corner the market on local mobile information, and make deep inroads into mobile search. We can be the authoritative and trusted voice through which advertisers and marketers spread their information. We can grow our subscriber base through mobile contests and special offers, all the while learning what our users want. If we’re lucky, we can create subscription-based mobile plans for specialized local information.

But we can’t do any of that is we don’t get in the game.

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